Wishing on a Magic 8-ball

Posted on Dec 6, 2013

As a teacher, I often wondered what the future would hold for the students in my classroom. I’ve had students that showed the kind of potential that made me think they could be the next Norman Borlaug. I’ve also had students that will likely be on a future episode of COPS. I guess only time will tell for sure. Makes me wish those magic 8-balls were more reliable.

Tonight I watched 21 young people who have futures that will only be limited by their imagination. The Farm Bureau Outstanding Youth contest is truly a showcase of our best and brightest. The ability to speak comfortably in front of an audience, interview with precision, and carry one’s self with confidence, are traits that we need in those who will lead agriculture into a new set of triumphs and challenges.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was in the same seats as those kids. I know the time they have put into preparing, the nerves as they present their speech, and the passion they have for agriculture. These are the kinds of students that teachers dream of. They are focused, driven, and will succeed regardless of what obstacles may come. If only I could have had a classroom full of these kinds of students, I’m sure I would have at least a few more hairs on my head.

While it takes an internal desire to push yourself to achieve and perform at such a high level, we all know that each of these young adults has a strong support system in their home, school, and community. Tonight I saw agriculture teachers, 4-H agents, and other supporters sitting in the audience beside the parents of these competitors. That is a testament to the dedication they have to their calling. I am reminded of a quote I first heard from Dr. Tony Brannon, Dean of the Murray State University Hutson School of Agriculture: “When you walk by a wooden fence post and atop the post is a turtle, one thing is for sure – he didn’t get up there by himself.” At some point we all need a helping hand.

You may not recognize the name Ray Fowler. He was an agriculture teacher at Lyon County High School that retired in the 80’s. But what you really need to know is that he was directly involved in the lives of three young people that have gone on to shaped agriculture in both our state and beyond. Harold Workman, Dwight Armstrong, and David Beck all had exposure to Mr. Fowler growing up. Consider that Mr. Workman led the Kentucky Exposition Center for a number of years and brought the North American International Livestock Exposition to Louisville; Dr. Armstrong is the CEO of the National FFA Organization, the most dynamic youth organization in the country (of course I am bias); David Beck, well as you already know, is the Executive Vice President of the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation and is one of the most influential people in Kentucky agriculture. While I would not downplay the self-drive and vision it took each of these men to reach these levels of prominence, it stands to reason that there had to be someone in the background helping them along. And they would all tell you Mr. Fowler was one of those people. He may not have known it at the time, but Mr. Fowler was helping to change the future landscape of agriculture, simply by providing education, experiences, and leadership development opportunities to youth. Can you imagine what agriculture in the state would have looked like if Mr. Fowler had been a teacher that simply taught Monday to Friday and didn’t engage and inspire his students? It’s scary to think about, but at the same time, it makes you appreciate those who take pride in supporting youth in so many ways.

During the Commodity Luncheon today, Commissioner Comer sang the praises of Farm Bureau and the many others who support youth activities. From sending a contestant to the district OFBY or working the local beef show during the fair, we need people who want to build agriculture’s tomorrow. While at the Trade Show today I talked with parents and grandparents of some of the OFBY competitors. Time and time again I heard people talk about how glad they are that Farm Bureau has an event like this for youth to get involved. I have to agree that we can never do enough to support young people in their development for their future.

I have been blessed to be a teacher, and I continue to work with youth in agricultural education. When I see students like we witnessed on stage tonight, I don’t question if we will be able to feed a growing world population, protect the values of farm life, or advocate for agriculture’s place as the most important industry in our society. I simply feel at peace knowing that I’ve seen the future, and the future is in the hands of young people willing to step into the spotlight to fight for agriculture. Thank goodness those young people have great individuals standing outside of the spotlight cheering them on.

Brandon K Davis is the State Supervisor of Agricultural Education and serves as the Kentucky FFA Advisor for the KY Department of Education. By virtue of his position, Brandon is a member of the Kentucky Farm Bureau State Board of Directors, representing the interest of Career and Technical Education. He spent 5 1/2 years teaching agriculture at John Hardin High School in Elizabethtown before becoming the State FFA Advisor. He is a life-long agriculturalist who grew up on a family farm in Green County.

Tagged Post Topics Include: 4-H, Brandon Davis, Commissioner of Agriculture, Commodity Luncheon, COPS, David Beck, Dwight Armstrong, Harold Workman, Hutson School of Agriculture, James Comer, Kentucky Exposition Center, KFB, Lyon County High School, Murray State University, National FFA, Norman Borlaug, OFBY, Tony Brannon